When Beyoncé recently won four Grammys, those statuettes put her in first place among those who’ve received the award: a total of 29.
She deserves them for a career loaded with memorable hits for nearly a quarter-century.
Having said that, I’d like to see an asterisk put next to her achievement.
It’s not anything against Beyoncé. It’s just that the Grammys were rarely as considerate to her predecessors in its first quarter century of existence (1958-1983).
Some may grumble.
“But Ozmoe,” you say,
“Stevie Wonder won 25 Grammys”
“Aretha Franklin and Paul McCartney:”
“Ray Charles: 17.“
“And Michael Jackson: 13!“
“How could the awards be biased against hitmakers, when these examples from that era have that many wins?”
The answer is: That they’re outliers.
And here’s two groupings that bolster my contention.
1. 1960s and 1970s Greats:
Total wins: 30.
You read right.
Ten of the biggest acts of all time combined have two less Grammys than what Beyonce has amassed by herself.
Their wins are pretty embarrassing for the legacy of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Grammys.
The Beatles won only 4 of their Grammys when they were together as a group, for Best New Artist and Best Performance by a Vocal Group for A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, and Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Album in 1967, both for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The other 3 came in connection with the 1996 Anthology of their work.
For 1966, 1969 and 1970: the Fab Four got no more than 2 failed nominations in those years.
Elton John claimed his first statuette in 1985, for being one of Dionne Warwick’s “friends” earning Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in That’s What Friends Are For. Prior to that, he had 15 nominations – with no wins from 1970 onward.
The Bee Gees got their wins from Saturday Night Fever in some fashion. They had one nomination outside of that hit album, for Best Pop Vocal by a Duo, Group or Orchestra for How Can You Mend a Broken Heart in 1970. Otherwise, they had no other nominations.
That didn’t stop the Grammys from doing a TV tribute special for the group a few years ago, even though Barry Gibb was the sole surviving member.
Elvis Presley lost 9 times before getting the Best Sacred Performance Grammy in 1967. He won in the same category twice before getting a posthumous nomination in 1978 for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male. Incredibly, he wasn’t nominated for his pop vocals after 1961.
The Rolling Stones waited until 1978 for their first nomination for Some Girls as Album of the Year.
They finally won 15 years later for Best Rock Album (Voodoo Lounge) and Best Music Video, Short Form (Love is Strong), nearly 30 years after their first hits in America.
James Brown won his first time out with Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag as Best Rhythm and Blues Recording for 1965. He waited 19 years later to get next his second Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, with Living in America. Between those two awards, he compiled a measly three other Grammy nominations, despite being known as “Soul Brother Number One.”
As for the rest, their sole wins were as follows:
- Neil Diamond for Jonathan Livingston Seagull as Best Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special in 1973
- Rod Stewart for Stardust: The Great American Songbook Volume III as Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album in 2004 (after 12 failed nominations)
- Chicago for If You Leave Me Now as Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus in 1976
- Led Zeppelin for Celebration Day as Best Rock Album in 2013
Regarding other notable names of the era, the Beach Boys and Queen were both 0 for 4 among Grammy nominations. Pat Boone was 0 for 6.
Connie Francis never got a nomination.
2. Motown Masters:
Total wins – 15
Omitting Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, the label that was “The Sound of Young America” is poorly represented by Grammy wins. And again, those wins aren’t too impressive:
Half of the Temptations’ wins were two for Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone in 1972. Lionel Richie didn’t get his first of 4 Grammys until Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for Truly in 1982.
Gladys Knight and the Pips got only 1 of their 3 wins when they were with Motown.
Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) won for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group, Duo or Chorus in 1972.
Likewise, Marvin Gaye had left Motown when he got 2 Grammys in 1983 for Sexual Healing. He relished the success, having lost 8 times previously. Smokey’s single win was for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male for Just to See Her in 1987.
Motown artists with nominations but no wins are:
- Diana Ross (13 – wow!)
- The Supremes (twice)
- The Jackson 5 (twice)
- The Four Tops (once)
- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (once),
- Mary Wells (once)
- and Martha and the Vandellas (once).
Because they had their first chart records at Motown, some may include the Spinners (or the Detroit Spinners, as TNOCS friend JJ Live at Leeds knows them in the United Kingdom). They went 0 for 6 nominations.
And receiving zero nominations were Eddie Kendricks and the Marvelettes.
All told, the 1960s and 1970s Greats and Motown Masters have just 13 more Grammys than Beyonce has currently, even though collectively they’ve compiled more than 100 No. 1 hits and more than 600 top 40 records. That’s just unfair, in my view.
Sorry, Grammys. I can forgive and forget.
But not the way you’ve treated most of the major “old school” rock and pop stars.